Projects which employed foreigners, especially Chinese specialists and workers, slowed down during January due to the escalating Covid-19 crisis
The ministries and divisions spent Tk90,704 crore from the Annual Development Programme's (ADP) revised allocation in the first nine months (July-March) of the 2019-20 Fiscal Year.
The figure is only 45.08 percent of the total revised ADP. During the same period in the previous fiscal year, the government spent Tk83,407 crore or 47.22 percent of the revised ADP.
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division(IMED) made the disclosure in its latest report.
Speaking to The Business Standard, IMED officials said the implementation of projects which employed foreigners – especially Chinese specialists and workers –slowed down during January this year due to the escalating Covid-19 crisis.
Bangladesh identified its first coronavirus patient in March, with the government decreeing a nationwide shutdown not long after. The general holiday caused work on most of the projects to be suspended.
Work on a few projects has progressed slightly during this time, but it did not amount to much, according to IMED officials, who added that some funds were spent on paying bills to contractors in a few projects before the shutdown was declared.
Responding to a query, IMED Secretary Abul Mansur Mohammad Faizullah said, "Some work on most of the projects continued until early March and a little progress was made. However, work remains suspended now, so there will not be much progress from April.
"Besides, the government has decided to spend money on some projects on a priority basis in the current fiscal year. That means the allocation for some projects will go down this fiscal year."
In the fiscal year 2019-20, the government initially allocated Tk215,114 crore for the ADP. Later, it revised the amount at Tk201,198.56 crore due to a lack of implementation capability and the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.
Government funding was Tk130,921 crore in the initial ADP allocation, which remained the same in the revised ADP. However, foreign assistance was reduced by Tk9,800 crore, to Tk62,000 crore from Tk71,800 crore.
Funds of self-financed projects were reduced from Tk12,393 crore to Tk8227.56 crore in the revised ADP allocation.
Among the larger ministries and divisions, the Ministry of Railways spent only 21 percent of its revised ADP allocation.
A number of railway projects, such as the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Ghumdhum railway line, Akhaura-Laksam Double Track line, Joydebpur-Ishwardi Dual-Gauge railway line and conversion of Akhaura-Sylhet rail track from metre to dual gauge, have been stagnant since January.
At the time Chinese nationals employed in those projects left Bangladesh to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Many of them could not return to work due to the Covid-19 situation.
Some work on the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Ghumdhum railway project made slight progress in the beginning of March and some bills have been paid to the contractors. But currently all work in the project remains suspended.
The Health Service Division is among the government bodies that received one of the largest ADP allocations. It managed to spend only 26.71 percent of its allocation in the first nine months of the current fiscal year.
The ministries of food and agriculture play the most important roles in times of national crises by ensuring food security. However, ADP implementation of these two ministries has been minimal.
From July to March, the Ministry of Food spent only 17.55 percent of its revised ADP allocation, while the Ministry of Agriculture spent 43.73 percent.
Among the ministries and divisions spending the most funds in the nine-month period of the 2019-20 Fiscal Year, the Election Commission spent 99.73 percent, Economic Relations Division 89.27 percent, National Parliament Secretariat 59.59 percent, Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment 65.97 percent and Power Division 53.25 percent.